Ontario shortens quarantine, restricts tests as COVID-19 cases increase, but there is a silver line

“Omicron is the first dominant variant showing a decrease in the severity of the disease”: Ontario top doctor Kieran Moore

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With the Omicron variant making COVID-19 spread faster than ever, Ontario’s health chief saves test resources and reduces isolation periods, with an expectation that the virus will rage across the province for up to eight weeks.

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The province’s chief physician Kieran Moore announced a series of changes to test and isolation protocols on Thursday when the province reported a record 13,807 cases of the virus. He said these numbers are only the beginning as the much more transferable variant will take hold.

“The numbers we have seen over the last few days feel overwhelmingly high, but with a doubling time of about three days. We need to be prepared to see our cases continue to grow,” he said.

The silver lining among the heavy clouds for the province was a new study among patients in the province where the virus is much less likely to land someone in the hospital.

“While clearly more transferable, preliminary results from Public Health Ontario suggest that Omicron is the first dominant variant showing a decrease in the severity of the disease. The risk of hospitalization or death was 54 percent lower for Omicron cases compared to with Delta cases. “

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Moore warned that even with lower severity, the huge increase in overall cases could potentially strain the health care system in the coming weeks.

Among the changes Moore announced, PCR testing for COVID-19 will now be limited to individuals who are highly vulnerable to the virus or work in high-risk environments such as long-term care homes. Vaccinated people with mild symptoms are told not to seek out a test, and anyone who has a positive rapid test does not have to wait for a PCR test to confirm their illness.

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Moore said the changes are a recognition that there is capacity for how many tests the county can handle on any given day, and that they need to be prioritized where they can do the most good.

“We have to use the limited capacity to best protect the Ontarians. I can assure you that if we had the ability to test every person, 14.7 million people when they got sick, we would have done it. , but no country around the world has that capacity, ”he said.

Moore said that even with the new test restrictions, the county will be able to track the spread of the virus in other ways such as hospitalizations, calls to the county’s health line and the remaining tests.

“We will be able to reflect that through testing of healthcare professionals who are higher in high-risk environments,” he said.

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Moore said so far that hospital admissions and admissions to the intensive care unit are not rising nearly as fast as is the case.

He said they also believe that a significant percentage of the cases currently reported as hospitalized are people in the hospital for other reasons, such as broken limbs or surgeries, who also happen to have COVID-19.

The government has asked hospitals to take a new look at their data to weed out random cases of COVID-19 in hospitals and give the province a better picture of the situation. Moore said at a hospital that half of the patients with COVID-19 were there for other reasons.

The province is also delaying students’ return to classes and pushing it back two days to January 5th. Moore also announced that the county would allow people infected with the virus to stop quarantining after five days instead of ten, as long as their symptoms had either disappeared or were improving.

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He said they have good evidence that vaccinated people are most likely to spread the virus in the first five days after they have been exposed.

“We know from studies that if they have a rapid accent, they will have a rapid decrease in the amount of viruses they secrete,” he said.

The changes do not apply to unvaccinated or immunocompromised individuals. Moore also stressed that people who end their quarantine early should not resume all activities.

“These individuals, who still have five days to go, should not visit vulnerable individuals, should not visit immunocompromised individuals and should also minimize their activities in public during those five days.”

The reduced isolation period was first announced by the US Centers for Disease Control.

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In response to a staff shortage, Westjet CEO Harry Taylor said his airline canceled up to 15 percent of flights in January.

“Despite all contingency planning, in addition to hiring thousands of WestJetters back to securely support peak operations, we no longer find ourselves able to predictably resource our planned schedule,” he said.

Quebec, which is also experiencing an increase in the number of cases, allows some healthcare professionals to skip isolation altogether and get to work even if they are infected with the virus due to staff shortages.

Quebec also introduced new restrictions Thursday, including a nightly curfew, a ban on indoor dining and restaurants, and on private gatherings in homes. Schools in the province will also stay closed until January 17.

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